NDP’s Quebec rookies hope to go from fluke to fixture

It’s a Wednesday night in Chambly and the local member of Parliament is working the room at a community corn roast. At a table away from the crowds two men are talking politics. I ask them what they think of young Matthew Dube and for a moment they have no idea who I’m talking about. A second later, it clicks.

“Well what I know of him is what I read in the newspaper,” says the 70-something year old with long grey hair. “And I agree with what he says and what he does.”

Dube seems to have their support even if he’s missing that recognition factor.

At 27 years old, Dube is the incumbent in the Beloeil-Chambly riding, but has never actually run an election campaign. In 2011, the NDP’s national campaign took care of everything, with very little involvement from Dube himself.

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So this time around, he’s blitzing the riding attending community events, and doing the very basic things: “Having signs up which I didn’t have last time – things like that,” says Dube.

Last election, the NDP only put up signs with then-leader Jack Layton’s picture on them in the riding, knowing taking the seat from the Bloc Quebécois was a long-shot. This time Dube and his dad put up the signs together, while his mom worked the phones at the campaign office. His parents are separated but they’re working together to get their son re-elected. “The campaign has actually brought us closer together,” says Dube.

“Even though I was already close with my parents, it’s given new life to even my relationships with my family.”

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On Montreal’s North Shore, the sound of Laurin Liu’s quick footsteps break the silence of a Boisbriand evening. The Rivieres-des-Milles-Isles candidate bounces from door to door trying to guage support in the riding.

READ MORE: FTQ to throw support behind NDP

With two volunteers in tow, she’s briefed on who lives at the home so she can have a more personal introduction: essential as some people here still don’t know the youngest female ever elected to the House of Commons. Like Dube, she was a McGill University student when she put her name on the ballot. She still hasn’t finished that History and Cultural Studies degree but was invited to speak last year at her alma mater’s Frosh Week. “I was probably the most famous college dropout they had to speak,” jokes the 24-year-old.

Liu and Dube made up half of the “McGill Four”, four students who put their names on the ballot in 2011 with little hope of winning. Amazingly the NDP’s Orange Wave in Quebec carried them to election wins, and thrust them into the national spotlight. They all admit they were unprepared for the attention and the workload, but the party insulated them with experienced political staffers to help them ride out the tough times.

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READ MORE: NDP believes Trudeau’s in trouble in home riding

Now with four years under their belts, both can point to their accomplishments as they try to convince people of the riding to vote for them instead of the party. Four years later they both have track records they can point to when glad-handing or heading out on the hustings. In 2012, Liu’s private member’s bill on the guaranteed income supplement was included in the Conservatives’ budget bill, and just two weeks ago she met a constituent who directly benefitted from her bill. “It really meant a lot to me that it had a direct impact on the lives of my constituents, that I was able to specifically help low-income vulnerable seniors,” she says.

READ MORE: Bloc to be shut out in Quebec as NDP momentum continues, say latest seat projections

Even though they are each charting their own course, Liu and Dube are keenly aware their road to Ottawa was paved by Jack Layon. They owe a lot of their success to the late NDP leader, and Dube isn’t afraid to admit it.

“The best compliment I get at the door is, ‘Last time I voted for Jack Layton, this time I’m voting for you.’”

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